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What environmentalists fear about Obama’s new climate strategy

Environmentalists have never been too keen about President Obama’s support for nuclear power and natural gas. But those positions got less attention amid the cap-and-trade debate.

With cap-and-trade all but dead, President Obama has decided to focus on energy provisions that can garner Republican support. This includes some things that environmentalists love, like energy efficiency and electric vehicles legislation. But it also includes natural gas and nuclear power, which make environmentalists shudder.

Some environmentalists and clean energy advocates have been more open minded about natural gas. The Center for American Progress has called it a “bridge fuel.” But overall, expanding the country’s reliance on natural gas isn’t ideal for the environmental community. In order to access vast shale gas reserves, for example, the natural gas industry injects chemicals and huge quantities of water into the ground.

Obama’s comments about natural gas this week at his post-midterm press conference did not go unnoticed by the natural gas industry. The Hill noted today that an Exxon executive touted his remarks on the company’s website today. “I hope that lawmakers from both sides are listening to the president’s words, so that the U.S. can reap the benefits of natural gas for decades to come,” Ken Cohen, of Exxon, wrote.

On nuclear, it’s a similar story. Environmentalists and clean energy advocates have long blasted nuclear power as too expensive and they’ve pointed to long permitting delays at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. At the same time, they’ve raised the specter of the nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island to underscore the potential danger of the power source.

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